1960 United Bowl-a-Rama Bowling Alley

Description: Bowl-a-Rama and Deluxe Bowl-a-Rama bowling alley, United, 10/60, 4.5" balls, 20 feet long (with a 4 or 8 foot extension lane available for even longer lengths). Bowlarama is a very unusual looking ball bowler and the first United ball bowler with a pin indicator hood (though this style of pin hood was only used on Bowl-A-Rama because of the unique pin set unit). A real contact bowler. Available in novelty or "deluxe" (replay) versions. The Replay version has a credit unit in the backbox and a start button on the front of the game (the novelty version does not have this button). Also the lower backglass that says "Bowl-a-rama" usually has a gold background on the replay version, and a salmon red color on the novelty version. Similar to the MBA bowler and Bally's 1964-1969 ball bolwers.

Only United ball bowler with pins attached by chains and cables, so they are free-floating and can knock over adjacent pins. This makes Bowlarama much more like real bowling, and hence the only real "contact" ball bowler (other than MBA). Are strikes hard to get? No not really at all. But the trick is how hard and accurate you throw the ball (just like real bowling). The harder you throw the ball, the better chance of knocking more pins down on Bowlarama. But if you throw the ball accurately and "in the pocket", even a soft throw will get you a strike on Bowlarama.

On a 'normal' ball bowler with 'fly back' (fly away) pins, the speed of the ball does not matter - the ball hits switches which activate relays which in turn pull the pins up (in fact rolling the ball too fast can make a switch closure too fast, not allowing the game to 'read' the switch). A normal ball bowler can compensates for good ball accuracy, pulling up outside pins (which the ball obviously won't hit), since fly away pins can't touch other pins. This is why you can get a 7/10 split is achievable on a normal "fly-away" pin ball bowler.

Bowlarama is different. It's real bowling. The pins, attached to chains, are free floating and can knock down adjacent pins. Each pins has a magnet in the bottom, which pulls up a cup under the lane and closes a switch. This is how the game knows if a pin is standing or not. As soon as a pin is hit, the magnetic cup falls opening a switch below the lane. All the pins can spin and fall and knock down adjacent pins, just like real bowling. Can you get a 7/10 split? Well I have not been able to do it. But heck I can't do it in real bowling either, so why should this be any different? Are strikes hard to get? No not at all, probably easier than real bowling (I can get five strikes per Bowlarama game, which I can't do in real bowling). But the speed and accuracy of the thrown ball is the key.

Bowl-a-rama also has some cool EM game logic. For example it won't let the player bowl ("Wait to Bowl" flashes on the score glass) until ALL the pins are set. So if the pin set unit messes up and does not get one pin set properely, it won't allow the player to score and will re-set the pins again. This is just like a real bowling alley, and is unlike any fly-away pin ball bowler.

The fact that Bowlarama is (at minimum) 20 feet long and the lane is four maple planks wider than a normal ball bowler also makes the game more fun and more realistic. The game is made to be 5/8 scale of real bowling. The pins have a magnet in their base that centers and locates the pin to the correct position on the lane. This is basically a larger version of the Williams Ten Strike (1957) style pin set unit. The only ball bowler to use this style of pin and pin set unit besides the 1960 United MBA bowler (which is the same as Bowlarama, but was made by United for the M.B.A. bowling company). Bowlarama was designed by the United engineer Bill Jonesi, and is a true coin operated engineering marvel. As a tribute to Bill Jonesi's marvel, there is a new version of the original Bowlarama made by AMF called Thunder Bowl. Basically just an updated version of Bowlarama with a video monitor (and slightly longer, balls slightly bigger).

If you have a United Bowlarama for sale (or any number of pins!) I would love to buy it. Please contact me at cfh@provide.net

a promotional picture which does not match the flyer picture.
(the flyer picture is how the actual game ended up).

A fully restored Bowlarama:

The author's Bowl-a-rama, which has been partially repainted blue (and is awaiting a proper repaint).
Missing the "header" on the top of the game (which is frankly ugly anyway, and puts glare on the score glass).

The pin set unit as seen from the front top access door.

The pin set unit as seen from the rear of the game.

Bowlarama in action! (strike.)

Under the deck where the pins rest are these metal cups. As the pin
is set on the deck the magnet in the pin rises the metal cup under
the deck. This opens a switch telling the game the pin is set in place.

A pin for Bowlrama. Ten inches tall (tip to toe), with the metal chain and magnet on the bottom.
If you have a pin or a whole set of pin for sale please contact me at cfh@provide.net

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